A rousing cheer for librarians and archivists

When was the last time a librarian really helped you get the answer you needed?

When that one piece of paper, carefully and lovingly preserved in the vertical files that that librarian had fought hard to keep in that corner of the library that somebody else wanted for his pet projects was the one piece of paper you absolutely had to have?

When some bit of work an archivist did made the difference between finding the answer and not finding it?

When some obscure record set only he or she knew about was the key to solving a long-time family history mystery?

Hip Hip Hooray

The Legal Genealogist has been in that position time and time and time again.

I’ve been in that little library in Kosciusko, Mississippi, where the librarian carefully kept a perfectly legible copy of a print-out of a census record that simply can’t be read online. A relative’s age could be three months or five months or eight months if you look at the very best online version of that record; it’s clearly and unequivocally five months in the print-out.

I’ve been in the North Carolina State Archives and been handed that copy of a petition filed by my fourth great grandfather that proved his story about his discharge papers burning up in a house fire really was true — and the fire was on Christmas Eve 1785.

And I expect to be there more than once this week, as I spend a couple of days researching a couple of my own family lines in South Carolina.

Sometime today, I’m going to be looking at the notes of a South Carolina professional genealogist whose collection has been microfilmed and is available here at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. Because a librarian told me it was there.

Sometime this week, I hope to hold in my hands the land records of my ancestors who first walked this part of the country. Because an archivist made sure the records were preserved.

And every time something like this happens, I try to remind myself to make it very clear to that librarian, to that archivist, just how very grateful I am.

I try to remember simply to say thank you.

I try to remember even to send a note to his or her boss when a librarian or archivist goes above and beyond for me.

And I try to remember that our entire community needs to be there for them when the crunch time comes — and it always does — and the library’s or archives’ budget is up on the chopping block.

What the librarians and archivists and other record-keepers do makes genealogy possible.

They’re always there for us.

Let’s be sure we’re always there for them.

Give a rousing cheer for the record-keepers, the librarians and the archivists of this world… and stand ready to work with them whenever they need us to help them preserve all our records for the future.

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